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CRC comments on the Cavendish (P-2489) Preliminary Application Document

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John Greenan, P.E.

Green Mountain Power Corporation

2152 Post Road

Rutland, VT  05701


Re: CRC comments on the Cavendish (P-2489) Preliminary Application Document and Study Plan Requests


Dear Mr. Greenan,


The Connecticut River Watershed Council, Inc. (CRWC), now doing business as the Connecticut River Conservancy (CRC), is a nonprofit citizen group established in 1952 to advocate for the protection, restoration, and sustainable use of the Connecticut River and its four-state watershed.  The interests and goals represented by CRC include, but are not limited to, improving water quality; enhancing habitat for fish and other aquatic biota; safeguarding and improving wildlife habitat; protecting threatened and endangered species; protecting wetlands; preserving undeveloped shore lands; enhancing public recreation and promoting recreational safety; protecting aesthetic values; protecting archeological, cultural, and historical resources; fostering sustainable economic development; and maintaining the potential energy benefits of hydroelectric projects in the Connecticut River watershed.


CRC attended the Joint Agency and Public meeting via phone on February 6, 2019 and has reviewed the Cavendish hydro-electric facility Pre-Application Document October, 2019. Please consider our comments on the PAD and requested studies below.


4.4 Current and Proposed Project Operations


The PAD states, that “For the protection of this bypass reach, the Project provides a continuous minimum flow of 10 cfs, or inflow, whichever is less.”[1] CRC understands that the minimum flow of 10 cfs in the bypass reach had been established due to the presence of bryophyte communities in the Cavendish Gorge during the last relicensing. This flow was established to protect the population of Scapania umbrosa that was present.  The PAD goes on to state that, “at the conclusion of the post license study period, Scapania umbrosa populations in Cavendish Gorge had disappeared.”[2] It seems logical that an analysis be done to ascertain what bryophytes communities are still present and whether a 10 cfs minimum flow is still appropriate in the bypass reach. CRC supports any additional analysis to establish an appropriate minimum flow that would support riverine habitat downstream of the project.


6.6.6 Freshwater Mussels


The PAD states that, “The State of Vermont has 17 native species of freshwater mussels…”[3] but it does not indicate that 10 out of the 17 are considered endangered or threatened in the state.[4]  CRC thinks it prudent that GMP do a mussel survey in the project area to consider project effects on our mussel populations. CRC defers to the expertise of the VT State Fish and Game or the United States Fish and Wildlife Service as to the design and oversight of this study.


7.2.7 Recreation and Land Use


The FERC guidance for recreation at hydropower projects states, “Licensees must also keep in mind that the demand for recreation is not static; it is an evolving process. Periodic review of a project’s consistency with recreation demands is required to ensure that the public need for recreational opportunity is being met by existing and proposed facilities.”[5]  All hydropower facilities have been required to file a “Form 80” with FERC every 6 years, and all were on the same filing schedule (recent filings are from 2015, 2009, and 2003). In 2019, this requirement was eliminated as a result of a recent rule change by the FERC. Therefore, there will not be any future Form 80 filings. Given that the only opportunity to consider recreational use now occurs during the relicensing process, CRC supports a recreation study.  Additionally, CRC encourages GMP to develop a Recreation Plan with a commitment to update this every 10 years over the course of the coming license in case additional opportunities for recreational improvements arise.  See Requested Study 1 in Attachment A.

In addition to the comments provided above, please note that CRC supports comments submitted by the natural resource agencies, including but not limited to the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department (VT F&W), VT Department of Environmental Conservation (VT DEC), and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).


We are very grateful for Green Mountain Power’s sustainable leadership and encourage them to use this opportunity to increase their commitment to the environment.  We appreciate the opportunity to provide comments.  I can be reached at kurffer@ctriver.org or (802) 258-0413.


Sincerely,


Kathy Urffer

River Steward


Encl: Attachment A: Study Requests


CC:

FERC, e-file

Jason Lisai, GMP

John Tedesco, GMP

Katie Sellers, Kleinschmidt Associates

Jeff Crocker, VT DEC

Eric Davis, VT DEC

Betsy Simard, VT DEC

Lael Will, VT F&W

Courtney Buckley, VT F&W

Hannah Harris, VT F&W

Melissa Grader, US FWS

 

 

ATTACHMENT A: STUDY REQUESTS


Requested Study 1:  Recreation Survey


Conduct a study of the recreational boating, fishing, and birding opportunities at the dam, as well as upstream and downstream of the dam to determine if changes or improvements can be made to enhance recreational opportunities.  Methodology should include using on-site visitor questionnaires and a mailed and/ or emailed questionnaire to residents of the neighboring towns to assess recreation use and needs at the project.  The study should also include an assessment of use of ADA compliant fishing access from the parking lot and walking paths available in the project area.


Goals and Objectives


  • To determine if project operations impact recreational opportunities;

  • To determine current use of project area for recreation;

  • Assess if there are operational, structural or other modifications to the project which could improve fishing, birding, or other recreational opportunities.

Resource Management Goals


Enhancement of recreational opportunities associated with the presence and operation of the project, including the dam, reservoir and tailwater areas. Noted that requester is not an agency or Indian tribe.


Public Interest 


Sections 4(e) and 10(a) of the Federal Power Act require the Commission to give equal consideration to all uses of the waterway on which a project is located, and what conditions should be placed on any license that may be issued.  As indicated in the FERC guidance for Recreation Development at Licensed Hydropower Projects,

“On December 27, 1965, FERC issued Order No. 313, which amended the General Policy and Interpretations section of the Commission’s regulations (18 CFR Part 2) to ensure that the ultimate development of recreation resources at all projects is consistent with area recreational needs.  Specifically, 18 CFR Part 2 was amended to include § 2.7, which requires licensees to: (1) acquire lands to assure optimum development of the recreational resources afforded by the project; (2) develop suitable public recreational facilities with adequate public access, considering the needs of physically handicapped persons in the design of facilities and access; (3) coordinate efforts with other agencies in the development of recreation areas and facilities; (4) provide for planning, operation, and maintenance of these facilities; and (5) inform the public of opportunities for recreation at licensed projects.”[6]



Existing Information


GMP provided filing of Form 80 reports in 2003, 2009, and 2015. All hydropower facilities have been required to file a “Form 80” with FERC every 6 years, and all were on the same filing schedule. In 2019, this requirement was eliminated as a result of a rule change by the FERC. Therefore, there will not be any future Form 80 filings. This relicensing process will be the only opportunity to consider recreational use over the course of the coming license period.


Nexus to Project Operations and Effects


Boaters, anglers, and other recreational users are impeded from access to their public trust waters by hydro-electric dams.  Changes in hydraulic conditions and habitat in the river impacts their ability to use the resources, affects catch rates and species for fish, and creates safety concerns.


Methodology Consistent with Accepted Practice


The proposed study would be conducted by using on-site visitor questionnaires and a mailed and/ or emailed questionnaire to residents of neighboring towns to collect feedback on perceptions of access to the area, use patterns and local needs.  This is an accepted methodology for this type of study.


Level of Effort/Cost, and Why Alternative Studies will not suffice


Cost for this study is estimated to be low.  This study would provide the current baseline regarding recreational use and would provide insight into the need for and type of potential enhancements.


[1] Pre-Application Document. Cavendish Hydroelectric Project. (FERC No. 2489). Prepared for Green Mountain Power Corporation. Prepared by Kleinschmidt, Pittsfield, ME. October 2019. Page 4-12.

[2] Ibid. Page 6-26.

[3] Pre-Application Document. Cavendish Hydroelectric Project. (FERC No. 2489). Prepared for Green Mountain Power Corporation. Prepared by Kleinschmidt, Pittsfield, ME. October 2019. Page 6-32.

[4] Vermont Agency of Natural Resources. Fish and Wildlife Department. Endangered and Threatened Species.  Accessed at: https://vtfishandwildlife.com/conserve/conservation-planning/endangered-and-threatened-species. April 5, 2020.

[5] Recreation Development at Licensed Hydropower Projects: Division of Project Compliance and Administration, Office of Hydropower Licensing, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Washington DC. March 1996. Page 14

[6] Recreation Development at Licensed Hydropower Projects: Division of Project Compliance and Administration, Office of Hydropower Licensing, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Washington DC. March 1996. Page 1.

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